Big Island considers adding honesty policy to ethics code

HILO, Hawaii (AP) — Big Island officials are considering adding language to the county’s ethics code requiring officers and employees to provide the public with information that is accurate and factual.

The county council voted last week in support of the measure, requiring county employees to provide honest information to “the best of each officer’s or employee’s abilities and knowledge,” West Hawaii Today reported . It’s set to go before council for final approval next week.

The current measure has changed from Puna Councilwoman Eileen O’Hara’s original bill that simply stated “officers and employees should be truthful.”

She introduced the measure in response to residents’ concerns, but amended it to gain the support of her colleagues, she said.

The measure went before the county ethics board Tuesday. The panel passed the issue back, sending a letter saying it is a policy matter best left to the council. The board noted that any change in the code should have clear definitions to assist the board in interpretation.

“You may honestly believe something to be factual and accurate when it is not accurate,” said Ken Goodenow, the board’s vice chairman. “I think it’s opening up a Pandora’s box.”

The board debated sending the letter to the council, with board member Nan Sumner-Mack arguing it is not a burden to ask public employees to be accurate.

“I think accuracy is very important, and as an ethics advisory board, I think accuracy is an ethical matter,” Sumner-Mack said. “I really think accuracy is a matter of honesty in some fashion.”


Information from: West Hawaii Today,